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In Defense of Lost Causes Hardcover – April 17, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Žižek leaves no social or cultural phenomenon untheorized, and is a master of the counterintuitive observation.”—New Yorker

“The giant of Ljubljana provides the best intellectual high science since Anti-Oedipus.”—The Village Voice

“Žižek is a thinker who regards nothing as outside his field: the result is deeply interesting and provocative.”—Guardian

“Žižek is one of the few living writers to combine theoretical rigor with compulsive readability.”—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His books include Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, In Defense of Lost Causes, four volumes of the Essential Žižek, and many more.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; First Printiing edition (April 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844671089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844671083
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,157,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome; Crazy States: A Counterconventional Strategic Problem

This book is divided against itself: parts of it are outstanding while other parts are esoteric and non-sense other than for members of a strange sect of what I call novo-Marxists.

Its basic theses that failures of the actual praxis of revolutions do not negate some of their values and that global capitalism should not be accepted as irreplaceable by better alternatives are well taken. The discussions of coping with biogenetics are fascinating. And many other insights make the book as a whole worth reading.

However, instead of focusing on main theses and working out coherent alternatives to global capitalism, or at least indicating ways to inventing such alternatives, the book gets lost in at least four labyrinths: (1) It devotes a lot of space to debates with other "sect members" on esoteric issues and responses to their criticism of the author's writings; (2) the book is one-dimensional in its assumptions on human psychology, relying i on some versions of Lacan and Lacanian reinterpretations of Freud, completely ignoring alternative and not less "scientific" schools of psychology; (3) it is captive to Marxian paradigms, making artificial efforts to fit important ideas into outdated language games, instead of bravely developing new paradigms; and (4) the authors pins his hopes on "trust in the people" without any non-anecdotal justification either in history or social sciences.
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Over the recent past, Slavoj Zizek has attracted a kind of cult followership. Some devotees attend to each of his public appearances, consult all his interventions on the internet, and voraciously read each and every volume that he publishes at an amazing pace. For others, he is a proto-terrorist on the loose, and his brand mix of Freudism and Marxism sets back the intellectual clock to the worst hours of leftist dogmatism. For my part, although I am far from sharing Zizek's political orientation, I find reading the Slovenian social scientist a useful distraction from more conventional readings, as well as a useful mind-stretching exercise. Like many other readers, I read Zizek for fun.

But reading In Defense of Lost Causes made me think again about why I took to reading his works with a kind of compulsive frenzy. I can think of several reasons. First, there is the shock of provocation, the "can he really mean that?" feeling when you stumble across sentences like "We need to reinvent revolutionary terror", "Today the enemy is not called Empire or Capital. It is called Democracy" or "The problem with Hitler is that he was not violent enough, that his violence was not 'essential' enough", or again chapters titled "How Stalin Saved the Humanity of Man" or "Give the Dictatorship of the Proletariat a Chance!"

So my first impulse was to check out his politics, so as to determine whether he really meant what he wrote. In fact, it took me a while to see clearly through his political agenda, as the first work I read (The Parallax View) was not very explicit in that respect.
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Format: Paperback
If for nothing else, you should buy this book because it engages, in a direct and rigorous fashion, with the thought of various luminaries of the Left. While Zizek's discussions of Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Robespierre are stirring in their own right, his assessments of Antonio Negri, Ernesto Laclau, Simon Critchley and fellow-traveler Alain Badiou are acute and incisive. Of especial interest is his careful evaluation of the latent ambiguities in Badiou's political thought, probing its interstices and interrogating its silences. Also crucial is Zizek's neo-Deleuzian injunction to `repeat' Lenin, to actualize the multiple virtualities that Lenin missed. The importance of Zizek for our time lies in his continued exhortation to look beneath the post-structuralist affirmations of endless differentiation, creativity and diversification- tropes that are in no way inimical to the `permanent revolution' of global capitalism- and discern the underlying sameness beneath the protean flux. For instance, what is repressed/disavowed in the First World's triumphalist discourses on limitless mobility and decentralized organization, what is its hidden subtext? As Boltanski and Chiapello have told us in The New Spirit Of Capitalism, the movement of some requires the inertia of others- the nomadic flight of today's jet-setting executive is made possible by the sweatshop worker, the office janitor, outsourced labor. As such, the properly `transcritical' attitude (Kojin Karatani) is to refrain from treating `globalization' as a revolutionary break, a `cut' in history- we must identify the residual sediments of the past that persist in our purportedly `postmodern' age (traces of premodern feudalism in Japan, the predominance of noncapitalist forms of production in South America). This theory of `uneven development' means that we should regard all celebratory affirmations of globalization with extreme suspicion.
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